PLA 6th generation fighter thread

ZachL111

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Here is the complete Paper
Please, Log in or Register to view URLs content!

"Design analysis of flight control laws of combined aircraft and test flight experiments"
"Finally, verification fight test of the combined aircraft is carried out. During the fight, the carrier aircraft and the child aircraft are separated safely, and the attitude is controllable throughout the fight. This further verifies the reliability of the robust servo fight control law proposed in this paper"


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Thanks! I seriously need to find a way to access CNKI here in the US, I'd probably post a large amount of research papers here in the forum if I could.
 

MarKoz81

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But still, the question is this. If USAF is going to have a delayed entrance for NGAD due to funding issues, where does that leave PLA? I'm not saying PLA does thing to just keep up with USAF. If USAF and USN are stuck with some combo of F-35A+F-15s and F-35Cs+F-18s until at least 2040 (with what looks to be minimal "6th gen" participation), it seems like the threat profile facing PLA is less than otherwise expected for Westpac scenario.

Do we have PLA that slows down "6th gen" and put greater focus on unmanned options?

These are good questions but in mind of the simply disastrous and sobering television debate yesterday, I don't know what to expect in the coming years: one is a more than senile old man who is hardly in control of himself and the other is a pathologically egocentric egoist, narcissist, liar and convicted felon ... either way, I think difficult times are coming for us and especially the USA.

I see two major problems here:
  • You're both instinctively treating "6 gen" as a single distinct platform separate from the development of collaborative unmanned systems.
  • You're thinking that the technology development in American and Chinese programs is a political decision.
Primo:

"6 generation" is like the preceding "5 generation" a marketing and propaganda term. However it does describe a process of technological evolution under selection pressure from a very literal arms race (because in evolutionary sciences natural selection pressure is often described as an "arms race" between predator and prey) and as such it is measurable and quantifiable in objective terms. In other words no matter what the manufacturers, decision-makers and media claim we can use data analysis to determine what a generation is and what it isn't and that analysis will always yield consistent and true result.

As such "6 generation" is not a single platform but a family of systems in each case. If you go to the Wikipedia page for NGAD you find the following description:

The Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) is a United States Air Force (USAF) sixth-generation air superiority initiative with a goal of fielding a "family of systems" that is to succeed the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor.[1][2] A crewed fighter aircraft is the centerpiece program of NGAD and has been referred to as the Penetrating Counter-Air (PCA) platform and is to be supported by uncrewed collaborative combat aircraft (CCA), or loyal wingman platforms, through manned-unmanned teaming (MUM-T).

Pay attention - reading comprehension is a must here:

F-22 - an aircraft with a very specific tactical role - is not replaced by another crewed aircraft. It is replaced by a "family of systems" of which a crewed aircraft is only a single element. This means that this very specific tactical role will not be fulfilled by a single aircraft or even a single system. More importantly however nothing in the above description indicates that this crewed aircraft is F-22's equivalent in any way. It only claims that the crewed aircraft is a "centerpiece" of the program, which naturally is logical as it refers to a "decision node".

The 5th and 6th generation tactical elements will not overlap in the same way that 5gen and 4gen or 4gen and 3gen did. If all the preceding generations were like a blueprint overlayed on top of each other then 6gen is the first where someone moves the top layer sideways and starts drawing something completely different.

This is not accidental. This is precisely what distinguishes the 6th generation from the 5the and preceding generations. The introduction of distributed intelligence networks makes traditional single crewed aircraft obsolete in physical and tactical terms.

6gen is when we're moving from individual fighters on the battlefield to tactical formations. It's inevitable. It's physics. Whoever doesn't get it will end up charging a machine gun with a bayonet.

In other words if China develops CCA (collaborative combat aircraft) to work with J-16 and USA develops a 6gen fighter to work with CCA then J-16s with CCAs will win agains American 6gen with CCA due to dynamics of simple attrition. Being able to field all F-35s with fewer CCA is more valuable than fielding a handful of 6gen fighters with many CCA. It's the distributed nature of future aerial warfare that transforms the battlespace so it may as well be that having potent EW will be more effective than having potent VLO, because VLO has bigger physical limitations than EW.

Look at drone warfare in Ukraine. Right now every single trench line requires localized EW systems to defend against small drones because proliferation of distributed systems (drone and operator unit is the simplest a distributed system) turned the mathematics of the battlefield entirely on its head. The big expensive systems are not the game-changer. The attritable, ubiquitous, cheap, mass systems are what counts.

VLO works in one direction only. With multiple eyes in the sky how do you stay in one position to benefit from VLO? Even the best VLO is limited by physics.

The crewed specialised fighter that will emerge from 6gen programs will be like a sniper in an army unit. It will be used for very specific roles with extreme specialisation. A key component which influences many tactical choices but hardly the foundation. The foundation will be the waves of attritable and replaceable CCA of all classes. It will be the breech-loaded rifle that allowed every infantryman to become more effective than a line of musketeers.

The reason why US may field a 6gen crewed fighter has more to do with the fact that F-22 is simply too obsolete (let alone - lacking an existing industrial base) to be upgraded to match 6gen requirements. Which would make it similar to B-2 and the real reason why B-21 is being built right now. So USAF will build an "updated F-22" much like B-21 is an "updated B-2" to fill those few tactical gaps that still call for a F-22 (look how F-16 replaced F-15 to understand why) and the rest will be handled by F-35, B-21 and auxiliary aircraft.

The notion that something is happening in NGAD because the crewed fighter may be delayed or - gasp- cancelled altogether - only indicates that people reading about the program have no understanding of what the program is and keep focusing on what they do understand. Arguably USAF has been less than transparent about it, but if you follow the development of tactics and the resulting procurement choices then everything is extremely obvious.

You're chasing a PR shadow on the wall if you're looking for a crewed fighter. Even if it emerges soon it will be more of a test and development platform. You can't design a genuine crewed 6gen without comprehension of 6gen characteristics. Note that F-22 was designed only after F-117 was extensively tested, including in actual combat. Desert Storm was in February 1991. First serial F-22A entered service in 2003.

If you think 6gen is about that new crewed aircraft you're as out of touch with reality as Biden was during the debate. Wake up guys or you'll miss the revolution happening before your eyes.

Secundo:

All you need to understand is that under Jimmy Carter the US was suffering from the largest budget crunch in post-WW2 history that almost broke NATO posture in Europe and yet it was specifically Carter's administration that approved and fostered the most innovative weapons' programs including F-117A, B-2, AEGIS cruisers etc etc. Carter cut B-1 as too obsolete and Reagan being a fraud and an idiot later revived it as a pork barrel program, along many other wasteful programs as well (which ironically then forced huge cuts in the early 1990s). Similarly the land-based cruise missiles and Pershing 2 were initiated under Carter and not Reagan, who took credit for it.

You may temporarily withdraw from positions on the board but you may never stop innovating because then you fall out of the game entirely. It's not about whether you are winning or losing a game but which game you're playing. As long as you're playing it's fine. Problems start when you stop playing.

What's the lesson from this? Unless USA collapses as a country the same way USSR collapsed the innovative programs will not be affected because they are the consequence of a general technological shift. If anything fewer F-35s can be bought in favour of more CCA. And the likelihood of USA collapsing in the same manner as USSR did is near zero at this moment. USA is historically and economically not where the Soviet Union was in 1991 at all but where France was before French Revolution (if Biden wins) or Germany in was in late 1932 (if Trump wins) and both of those were followed by inevitable re-direction of internal aggression outward which means a war and higher military spending.

And considering that 6gen is not 5gen, we will likely see more of 6gen, rather than less.

Consider that the generations tend to move in a see-saw pattern of "performance" and "affordability".
  • gen1 is performance - turbojets are expensive, turboprops are affordable.
  • gen2 is affordability - high-performing supersonics and rocketry are performance
  • gen 3 is performance - heavy multiroles and increasingly capable radar is expensive, gen2 is affordable
  • gen 4 is affordability - hi-lo mix is affordable, continuing as gen 3 is expensive
  • gen 5 is performance - no explanation necessary, gen4 upgrades are affordability
  • gen 6 must be affordability - especially in wartime (look around you).
And the same logic applies to China which incidentally fits everything I wrote about J-16 in that thread, in my previous post.

While everyone wants to fight the previous war the next one is already being fought.

Mark my words.
 
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enroger

Junior Member
Registered Member
Here is the complete Paper
Please, Log in or Register to view URLs content!

"Design analysis of flight control laws of combined aircraft and test flight experiments"
"Finally, verification fight test of the combined aircraft is carried out. During the fight, the carrier aircraft and the child aircraft are separated safely, and the attitude is controllable throughout the fight. This further verifies the reliability of the robust servo fight control law proposed in this paper"


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View attachment 131752

This looks very speculative, doubt it is in serious development. I assume the rationale is using a long range mother aircraft carry short range UCAV like a flying aircraft carrier, though the paper only mentioned release mechanism without saying anything about recovery, which is much more difficult. It seems to me a whole lot of effort for very little benefit compared to just having more survivable stealthy tanker arround
 

no_name

Colonel
My prediction of what China might be aiming to develop.

I'll avoid using generation term/number altogether

Some characteristics:

-Orbital/Near space capability
-Controlled dip to hypersonic glide/flight capability then land.
-Carrying hypersonic munition releasable during hypersonic flight.
-No more bomber/fighter distinction although the platform will be geared for strategic targets rather than tactical ones.
-Smaller number procured, likely between B-2 and no more than F-22 numbers.
-Very likely to be unmanned due to the type of maneuver it may have to perform and length of time on station.
-Impossible to intercept with current available weapons.
-Speed and altitude advantage over adversaries, stealth is secondary or forwent altogether since interception impossible.
-Could be under direct control of the CMC.
-Might need rocket, or more likely, aircraft carried takeoff, released at altitude.
-Return on it's own.
-A merge of X-37B and hypersonic flight vehicle function.

Role/Purpose:
-Prompt global strike platform at strategic targets.
-Orbital loitering/patrol. Constant presence in space on a rotating roster, possibly staying for days or weeks on end.
-They may even decide keep a constant small constellation in space, Beidou style.
-A separate highly survivable nuclear carrying capable platform in addition to the current nuclear triad setup.
-Capability to lockdown Earth-to-space travel, if the need for such arises.


A couple of years back China tested a space/near space flying platform released from a carrying aircraft that they claimed was too advanced to be shown.

There was some research being conducted about aircraft skin that can self-heal from damage. I was initially skeptical about healing from damages caused by the likes of cannon and missile munition, as they tend to be function and structural too. But then it makes more sense if we are talking about damages from tiny debris/meteorite strikes to aircraft, as well as damage from long term exposure to high energy solar radiation. For larger foreign objects detection and maneuver to avoid it may be possible but below a certain size threshold there might be no choice but to take it head-on.

For a platform that may need to stay in space for longer periods/often any small damage needs to be temporarily managed until it can get back to ground for more thorough inspection/replacement. Hypersonic flying and gliding capability could mean a less violent re-entry that does not require the approach of fixing thick heat tiles onto surface of aircraft which will complicate self-healing.

There is also research on deformable skin in place of traditional control surfaces. I also don't see a need for such complex way of controlling an aircraft if it's gonna be an extension on the existing 5th gen concepts. It is likely research for a platform that will go through quite a wide envelop of flight height and speed such that it necessitate a change of plane form at difference parts of the envelops. Also research on flight control through small air vents in place of traditional control surfaces.
 
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Deino

Lieutenant General
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My prediction of what China might be aiming to develop.

I'll avoid using generation term/number altogether

Some characteristics:

-Orbital/Near space capability
-Controlled dip to hypersonic glide/flight capability then land.
-Carrying hypersonic munition releasable during hypersonic flight.
-No more bomber/fighter distinction although the platform will be geared for strategic targets rather than tactical ones.
-Smaller number procured, likely between B-2 and no more than F-22 numbers.
-Very likely to be unmanned due to the type of maneuver it may have to perform and length of time on station.
-Impossible to intercept with current available weapons.
-Speed and altitude advantage over adversaries, stealth is secondary or forwent altogether since interception impossible.
-Could be under direct control of the CMC.
-Might need rocket, or more likely, aircraft carried takeoff, released at altitude.
-Return on it's own.
-A merge of X-37B and hypersonic flight vehicle function.

Role/Purpose:
-Prompt global strike platform at strategic targets.
-Orbital loitering/patrol. Constant presence in space on a rotating roster, possibly staying for days or weeks on end.
-They may even decide keep a constant small constellation in space, Beidou style.
-A separate highly survivable nuclear carrying capable platform in addition to the current nuclear triad setup.
-Capability to lockdown Earth-to-space travel, if the need for such arises.


A couple of years back China tested a space/near space flying platform released from a carrying aircraft that they claimed was too advanced to be shown.

There was some research being conducted about aircraft skin that can self-heal from damage. I was initially skeptical about healing from damages caused by the likes of cannon and missile munition, as they tend to be function and structural too. But then it makes more sense if we are talking about damages from tiny debris/meteorite strikes to aircraft, as well as damage from long term exposure to high energy solar radiation. For larger foreign objects detection and maneuver to avoid it may be possible but below a certain size threshold there might be no choice but to take it head-on.

For a platform that may need to stay in space for longer periods/often any small damage needs to be temporarily managed until it can get back to ground for more thorough inspection/replacement. Hypersonic flying and gliding capability could mean a less violent re-entry that does not require the approach of fixing thick heat tiles onto surface of aircraft which will complicate self-healing.

There is also research on deformable skin in place of traditional control surfaces. I also don't see a need for such complex way of controlling an aircraft if it's gonna be an extension on the existing 5th gen concepts. It is likely research for a platform that will go through quite a wide envelop of flight height and speed such that it necessitate a change of plane form at difference parts of the envelops. Also research on flight control through small air vents in place of traditional control surfaces.

are we still in the 6th generation fighter thread?
 

jerometa

Just Hatched
Registered Member
Here is the complete Paper
Please, Log in or Register to view URLs content!

"Design analysis of flight control laws of combined aircraft and test flight experiments"
"Finally, verification fight test of the combined aircraft is carried out. During the fight, the carrier aircraft and the child aircraft are separated safely, and the attitude is controllable throughout the fight. This further verifies the reliability of the robust servo fight control law proposed in this paper"


View attachment 131751

View attachment 131752
I read with interest especially the combined aircraft configuration with V-Tail aircraft design incorporates two slanted tail.
 

dingyibvs

Junior Member
I've posted it in the chinese hypersonic developments thread instead. Mods can delete this one if they feel it is off-topic
I like your way of thinking, I've had similar thoughts as well. Looking at Ukraine and how ground war is becoming more primitive, perhaps air war will as well and go back in time to the days of speed and altitude dominating as well. I mean, what's preventing near-space, hypersonic tech from permeating into fighter-bombers? Isn't it possible that missiles have evolved enough since the Vietnam war such that dogfighting and thus maneuverability is truly no longer relevant for fighters? Improved stealth, sensors, AI etc. can either be integrated into existing 5th gen platforms or be an evolutionary step forward, but next generation propulsion that enables near-space hypersonic flight could potentially be a revolutionary step forward worthy of a generational leap.
 

Blitzo

Lieutenant General
Staff member
Super Moderator
Registered Member
My prediction of what China might be aiming to develop.

I'll avoid using generation term/number altogether

Some characteristics:

-Orbital/Near space capability
-Controlled dip to hypersonic glide/flight capability then land.
-Carrying hypersonic munition releasable during hypersonic flight.
-No more bomber/fighter distinction although the platform will be geared for strategic targets rather than tactical ones.
-Smaller number procured, likely between B-2 and no more than F-22 numbers.
-Very likely to be unmanned due to the type of maneuver it may have to perform and length of time on station.
-Impossible to intercept with current available weapons.
-Speed and altitude advantage over adversaries, stealth is secondary or forwent altogether since interception impossible.
-Could be under direct control of the CMC.
-Might need rocket, or more likely, aircraft carried takeoff, released at altitude.
-Return on it's own.
-A merge of X-37B and hypersonic flight vehicle function.

Role/Purpose:
-Prompt global strike platform at strategic targets.
-Orbital loitering/patrol. Constant presence in space on a rotating roster, possibly staying for days or weeks on end.
-They may even decide keep a constant small constellation in space, Beidou style.
-A separate highly survivable nuclear carrying capable platform in addition to the current nuclear triad setup.
-Capability to lockdown Earth-to-space travel, if the need for such arises.


A couple of years back China tested a space/near space flying platform released from a carrying aircraft that they claimed was too advanced to be shown.

There was some research being conducted about aircraft skin that can self-heal from damage. I was initially skeptical about healing from damages caused by the likes of cannon and missile munition, as they tend to be function and structural too. But then it makes more sense if we are talking about damages from tiny debris/meteorite strikes to aircraft, as well as damage from long term exposure to high energy solar radiation. For larger foreign objects detection and maneuver to avoid it may be possible but below a certain size threshold there might be no choice but to take it head-on.

For a platform that may need to stay in space for longer periods/often any small damage needs to be temporarily managed until it can get back to ground for more thorough inspection/replacement. Hypersonic flying and gliding capability could mean a less violent re-entry that does not require the approach of fixing thick heat tiles onto surface of aircraft which will complicate self-healing.

There is also research on deformable skin in place of traditional control surfaces. I also don't see a need for such complex way of controlling an aircraft if it's gonna be an extension on the existing 5th gen concepts. It is likely research for a platform that will go through quite a wide envelop of flight height and speed such that it necessitate a change of plane form at difference parts of the envelops. Also research on flight control through small air vents in place of traditional control surfaces.

I like your way of thinking, I've had similar thoughts as well. Looking at Ukraine and how ground war is becoming more primitive, perhaps air war will as well and go back in time to the days of speed and altitude dominating as well. I mean, what's preventing near-space, hypersonic tech from permeating into fighter-bombers? Isn't it possible that missiles have evolved enough since the Vietnam war such that dogfighting and thus maneuverability is truly no longer relevant for fighters? Improved stealth, sensors, AI etc. can either be integrated into existing 5th gen platforms or be an evolutionary step forward, but next generation propulsion that enables near-space hypersonic flight could potentially be a revolutionary step forward worthy of a generational leap.


Generational differences do not necessarily require leaps that are revolutionary or that which are "worthy". Fighter generations are made up, and there is no fixed universal truth about what requires one generation of fighter aircraft to be the next generation compared to another.


Instead, what we get instead is seeing what the leading powers produce and how the commentariat describe them.

As it stands, the current under development technologies and subsystems for "6th generation" fighters do not seem to indicate any desire to attain hypersonic speeds. Sure, being able to attain hypersonic speeds and very high altitudes in a sustainable way and in a relevant package would be very interesting and capable, but the problem is there is no indication such a capability is being pursued for the upcoming "6th generation" fighters.

Even if "6th generation" fighters do not end up being a huge leap compared to 5th generation fighters, say compared with 5th versus 4th generation differences, that's not exactly a big deal.
One could argue that 4th generation fighters and 3rd generation fighters were not that large of a difference either, and of course there have been many upgraded 3rd generation fighters featuring many 4th generation technologies with capabilities competitive with 4th generation fighters.



Ultimately we don't have the luxury of trying to wishcast what "6th generation" fighter features should be, because it's way too late for that. We're going to start seeing "6th generation" fighters emerge in prototypes before the end of the decade, and we almost definitely aren't going to see anything crazily exotic like hypersonic near space fighters, so it's probably useful to set expectations appropriately.


Beyond "6th generation" (who knows, maybe "7th" or "8th" generation, or in future we may even dispense with generations in general which would not be a bad thing), then we can maybe let imaginations run a bit more wild. But why even bother speculating that far out.
 

tphuang

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Shilao podcast on 6th gen in the event of the recent USAF NGAD comments. you need subscribe to them to see this.


I get the sense from this even the PLA security establishment is surprised at the slow pace and cost overrun of this project.

I will make this prediction. Based on what I remember from what happened around 5th generation projects and what I've seen in limited time with 6th generation so far, I would think we have the first flight in 2026 and service entry around 2033. So for both, about 15 years after J-20. And I think if we see first flight in 2 years (before NGAD), it's going to be a sputnik moment. Even though in reality, it probably don't mean that much, but the symbolism would be too hard even for the DC blob to ignore.
 
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